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The Harder They Fall

Hiding Out at the Circle C

Long-Lost Mom by Jill Shalvis
(Silh.Int.Mom. #905, $4.25, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-07905-2
Jenna Loggins has returned to her childhood town with a mission. By rights, she should be dead she'd been involved in a horrible accident, where she was thrown through the windshield of her car, and down a 200 foot cliff. The accident was a sort of epiphany for her. After all, she must have survived for a reason, right? Rather than wander about the world having fun and thinking only of herself, she needs to grow up; to determine the people and places that she values, make amends, and see if she can participate in their lives again.

As a result of the accident and subsequent restorative surgeries, Jenna has a new face, and a different voice. Her hair, shaved before surgery, has grown in darker, and she must now wear tinted contacts, which also alter the color of her eyes. Oh she also has a new name. Cindy Beatty. There is a lot going on in this book. You have to be a quick study to keep up.

At the age of seventeen, Jenna had been a hellion. Her mother considered her to be a complete disappointment who could do nothing right, and would never be even remotely close to the perfection of her older sister, Kristen. Jenna had decided early on to live down to her mother's expectations. She was the town rebel. A selfish, spoiled brat. The only person who truly understood her and loved her anyway was Stone Cameron. Stone had been her friend, confidante and protector , even though they lived in entirely different worlds. Jenna was poor white trash, while Stone was the youngest son of the richest family in town.

On a night when Jenna is most distraught over a family betrayal, she and Stone become lovers. They've taken precautions, but alas, the condom breaks, and Jenna becomes pregnant. The repercussions from the unplanned pregnancy and the scandal behind the family betrayal are too much for Jenna, and she runs away only hours after giving birth to their daughter Sara. Stone is left to raise the child on his own, without the support of his family.

When Jenna returns, ten years have passed. Stone and Sara have made a life for themselves. Though she abandoned them, Jenna has never stopped loving Stone or Sara, and honestly thought she was doing them a favor by leaving. When they meet again, Jenna intends to be straightforward and tell them who she is, but ends up telling them that her name is Cindy. Stone is drawn to her, but doesn't recognize her as being his long lost love. They begin a relationship, with Stone still thinking Cindy is a different person than Jenna. Once the misunderstanding is in place, Jenna is trapped how can she now tell them who she really is? And not only Stone and Sara, but what about the others in the town? Her sister? His family?

There's a lot of emotion in these 249 pages, but it's not maudlin. I was drawn into the story from the first page, and it kept my attention throughout. It was well written, and the characters were likable. I finished this book with a smile on my face. It was only afterwards, when I began to think about the story, that I kept coming up with plenty of "yeah, but" questions.

I read the book in one sitting. Had I not been able to do so, I might have had to check back on occasion, to make sure I had the stories straight. Could this really happen? Would the resolution come about as easily in real life? Could Stone really be that mellow and forgiving? Were Sara's reactions realistic? There were plenty of other questions, as well.

Perhaps the moral of this story is: read Long Lost Mom in one sitting, take it at face value, enjoy it, and then don't think about it afterwards.

--Diane Grayson

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